Video: Dancing magnetic oil sculpture

Sachiko Kodama, associate professor at Tokyo’s University of Electro-Communications, creates breathtaking sculptures by manipulating magnetically charged oil with powerful electromagnets. One of the sculptures (I'm not sure if it's the one in this video or not) will be on display at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens through October. If you can go see it, I'd love to see more video in action. [via io9]
This entry was posted in Art and Instruments, japan, sculpture and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Video: Dancing magnetic oil sculpture

  1. jfranchino says:

    I consulted for one of her pieces in Los Angeles. They’re even better to see in real life. Giant electromagnets moving iron filings in paraffin oil. The structures that you see on the video are decent sized… maybe 6-12 inches tall (rough estimate as I haven’t seen that exact piece in person). It’s not some microscopic structure. And they’re heavy as hell.

    Some of the pieces are modulated by ambient sound or have live video of the sculpture projected up on an adjacent wall. It’s great.

    If Meerkat’s going to give Siggraph a plug, I’ll plug Ars Electronica.

  2. wunderfisk says:

    These are indeed wonderful. I’ve been a fan since the last time this was featured on Boingboing. ;)

  3. Bugs says:

    Beautiful video, I wish I could see it in real life. A perfectly controlled, moving sculpture like this is another “I’m living in the future” moment. Awesome stuff.

    And now, pedantry! “Magnetised oil”? Oil itself cannot be magnetised, so I suspect that it’s a ferrofluid, a suspension of magnetic particles (often iron dust) in oil. The spikes we see stick out along the magnetic feild lines; their sizes and shapes are dictated by the fluid’s viscosity and ability to react to a magnetic field combined with the streangth and shape of the feild being generated.

    The wikipedia page seems pretty good, although I’m not enough of a specialist to judge it:

    For anyone who wants to try their own sculptures, plenty of sites online sell ferrofluids just about cheap enough to play with. I’ve also seen instructions for mixing your own from fine iron filings and vegetable oil, but I can’t remember the source offhand.

    I wonder if one could make a two-coloured sculpture? Coloured magnetic particles shouldn’t be too difficult to make, but separating them would be harder. Maybe suspend one in oil and the other in water, so they can’t mix? Or you could use a ferrofluid to sculpt a bowl, waterfall or other container that could contain water or some other immiscible non-ferrous fluid. Or maybe mix the coloured particles together in oil but have them seperate by weight/density/magnetic charge?

  4. Trent Hawkins says:

    Hey! It’s that thing that killed Tasha Yar!

  5. DMcK says:

    Huh, I thought it was that evil crap from the X-Files…

  6. meerkat says:

    Wow, thanks for posting that.
    I saw this sculpture or something extremely similar at Siggraph last year in Boston. It really is astounding in action.
    If you ever have a chance, Siggraph is a great place to see wild & arty tech like this (if it is in your neighborhood). I just paid for an exhibits pass and it was the best $100 I have spent in a long time.

  7. technogeek says:

    Fascinating effect. What’s the actual size of these?

  8. tomic says:

    The Exploratorium in San Francisco had a similar, if simpler, device at least 10 years ago. When you pressed button(s) it made the oil rise up in patterns. Quite nice.

    It was magnetite dust in motor oil; they got the magnetite dust from the ocean beach, using a magnetic separator, I think they just shovelled sand over a moving belt with a magnet under it.

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